Dear Dr. Greene, After eight months of nursing, I contracted a breast infection. I called my OB's office and spoke with the on-call nurse. I told her my symptoms, she prescribed antibiotics and told me it was safe to continue nursing my son. I have two questions - Is there anything I can do, besides taking the antibiotics, that will help speed my recovery? How can I avoid getting another one? I want to keep nursing, but this really hurts!
San Mateo, California
First of all, may I say that I applaud your efforts to continue nursing your baby, even when it is painful. Nursing has a powerful, positive impact on a baby’s health. By the time your baby is eight months old, he has undoubtedly begun eating a wide variety of solid foods. Even so, he continues to gain a large portion of the nutrition he needs from your breast milk. In addition, his immune system will be developing particularly rapidly until he reaches about one year of age. Until that time his own, immature, immune system is greatly augmented by the immunoglobulins he receives from your milk.
Breast infections are most common in the period from two to six weeks after birth, but they can happen as long as you are nursing. They are caused by bacteria that normally live on the surface of the breast, and may be complicated by a clogged milk duct. In many cases they are quite painful, and can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. They are nothing to take lightly! Here are some suggestions for speeding your recovery:
To minimize your chances of future breast infections, follow the general guidelines listed above and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before you touch your breasts. It is very easy to go from a diaper change into nursing, but you must be very careful to wash your hands completely in-between.
No matter how many precautions you take, you may get another breast infection. The key to minimizing its effect is to treat early and aggressively! In other words, take good care of yourself. You are very important to your baby!!!